my most recent turtle story…..more of an outrage at the callousness of those who develop relentlessly, deatroying our natural heritage, kiling our marine life…
there is however-an error-An editing error,
has changed one line completely:

the edited story says:

“One wonders too, why members of IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group from India were not consulted. Incidentally, none of them have gone on record to oppose the port.”

while i had clearly stated…

One wonders too, why none of the members of IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) from India were consulted. Incidentally, all of them have gone on record to oppose the port.

not my error-but my apologies..



Port Of Disaster

Dhamra port will be the last nail in the Olive Ridley turtles’ coffin

Wildlife Journalist

IF YOU ASK the turtles, they would want the port too,” said Santosh Mohapatra, CEO of the Dhamra Port Company Ltd, while I stared at him in disbelief.

What was he trying to imply? That the turtles will welcome the fact that soon, the waters in which they swim and mate, arriving en masse at their nesting site, will turn into a turbid pool of grime, oil and silt? That they would applaud the construction of the port, and the ancillary activities that would change the marine ecosystem itself — altering tidal patterns, the food web, and the benthic ecosystem they depend on for their very survival? That they would celebrate the port that would destroy their habitat, and them?

For the CEO, the Olive Ridley Turtles aren’t endangered, nor, he assured me, would the port harm the turtles: no, no, not at all. A minute later, he was singing a different tune: so what if a few were to die; there were plenty more turtles in the sea; a few mortalities here and there did not really matter.

It does, Mr Mohapatra, it does. The Olive Ridley turtles are protected, a as Schedule I species (in case you need some elaboration, that’s on par with the tiger) in India, and Gahirmatha is just one of the two mass nesting sites in Orissa — the third, the Devi river mouth has been lost to human pressure and interference — where lakhs of turtles arrive each season for “arribada”. It’s a ritual as old as time, as old as the creatures themselves, wherein thousands of turtles migrate from shores unknown and arrive at the very same beaches they were born in, to give birth to new life. But now the waters are unwelcoming and the passage unsafe.

The port is less than 15 km north of Gahirmatha, and within the boundaries of the Bhitarkanika sanctuary, which was notified in October 1988. But the size of the sanctuary was reduced by more than half in 1997— against the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 — allegedly to accommodate the upcoming port.

To ensure environmental clearances, the Coastal Regulation Zone was amended, conferring power to the Ministry of Surface Transport to give environmental clearances to minor ports, or to those projects that legally constituted an expansion of existing ports. Yet, the Dhamra port sailed through the environmental “hurdles”, even though it fulfilled neither criterion.

As expected, Mohapatra waxed eloquent on the “support” the port enjoyed from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Interestingly, the co-Chair of IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group, Dr Nicolas Pilcher wrote in December 2006, “This port will impact marine turtles, of that there can be no doubt. The nesting area is in direct line of sight of the port development site, and the glow from the port will be seen many miles beyond the nesting site. I can’t turn away from the dredging that will be required to make the channel and then maintain it. My personal wish? That there be no port” But his stance had taken a 360 degree turn by March 2008, when Pilcher writes, “There is ample evidence around the world to show turtles and ports coexist, while there is no scientific evidence anywhere to show the Port is going to cause any sort of major catastrophe.”

One wonders at this sudden turnaround. IUCN maintains that its role is advisory and that they were called in after the project had been approved and development underway. Their role, they say, is to advise on addressing the potential impact of the project on turtles. I asked Mohapatra whether the IUCN or their consultants had been paid, and how much. Mohapatra said it was none of my business, “that the money was a small amount to cover their expenses and such like.” Pressed into a corner, he admitted in front of at least 15 other journalists that they had given Rs 1 crore. Someone should investigate this. Sources say it is much more and if it isn’t, we sold off the turtles cheap.

One wonders too, why members of IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group from India were not consulted. Incidentally, none of them have gone on record to oppose the port.

There is scientific evidence to support the fact that there are turtle in the waters off the port site. The port will be the largest in South Asia, with a projected capacity of 83 million TPA. The mind boggles at the huge amounts of silt that will be needed to be dredged — over 60 million cubic metres initially, followed by two million cubic meters each year.

The ancillary industries and infrastructure, artificial lighting, night illumination (which befuddles the hatchlings that depend on moonlight to navigate towards the sea, and safety) and oil spills will accentuate the devastation. The turtles are already fighting many battles — trawlers, oil drilling, degraded shores. The port, a joint venture of Tata and Larsen and Toubro, is already under construction and it will unquestionably be the final, decisive nail in the turtle’s coffin. There are alternate sites where the port can be constructed, but there are no alternatives for the turtles.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 28, Dated July 19, 2008